Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Saving Bernie

It's strange the thoughts that pass through a man's mind when he is about to die.

I mean, there's Bernie, knelt on his lounge carpet, staring into the end of a .45 barrel.

Now, if the positions were reversed, my mind would probably be racing along avenues of pleading, begging, crying, bargaining... maybe even threatening.

But not Bernie, all he said when I asked if he had any last words was “Who will look after my hamster?”

I looked down at him, trying to work out if this was some kind of joke or not.

I've been in this game for a long time now, clipped a lot of guys along the way. Mostly crims and hoodlums that deserved what I delivered. A few corrupt business men who thought they were untouchable, and some corkscrewy politicians. Hell, some of THOSE guys I would have done for free too.

I have to admit, this is the first time I ever had a response like this. Almost to a man, the only thing the marks I offed were interested in saving was their own skin. I would have put Bernie in that class too until now.

Bernie stared up at me, there was no fear in his voice when he spoke. “I don't have the money.” He said. “I know the rules, and I guess I knew it was gonna go this way. But please, when you leave, take my hamster with you. He's kinda... special.”

The only thing I heard in his voice was concern, not for himself though. Who would ever guess a tough guy like Bernie would spend his last breath pleading for the life of a hamster?

I mean... Jeez, what the hell was Bernie doing with a hamster in the first place? I would have tagged him for being a rottweiler or pitbull owner.

Faint squeaking and scratching sounds came from my left.

“Don't move.” I said to him. I kept the gun pointing in his general direction as I walked over to the hamster cage sat atop the coffee table under the window.

Well, I tell you, this is the weirdest thing I ever did see. The hamster, a cute looking brown and white piece of fluff was sitting on its haunches staring back through the cage bars at me, it's front paws pressed together in front of its chest. I swear, for the life in me, it looked like it was praying... or begging.

And then I looked into the hamster's eyes...

I felt my senses drift as I was drawn into the honeyed, caramel depths of its stare. Now you may think me insane when I say that I felt I was being hypnotised... by a hamster?

Despite being aware, I was powerless to resist. Down, down and ever deeper down I sank through treacly thoughts and flittery imaginings.

Until I hit soft bottom.

I felt I was lying on the silty bed of a molasses lake.

Something inside me shifted, melted, rearranged itself.

I began to rise, slowly, slowly, until I broke surface and found myself once more staring through the cage bars at the hamster. No longer praying, but both tiny arms extended toward me, sharp tiny claws undulating, like a continuous minute mexican wave.

A sharp click of claws brought me back to the present.

I shook my head a few times to clear my thoughts.

What the hell? It felt like a different person talking when I opened my mouth to speak.

“Bernie.” I said. “The contractor doesn't know I've been here yet, so I'm gonna go home and get some sleep, when I come back tomorrow and find you gone, well... I never missed a mark before, but there's a first time for everything, right? sometimes they get away, you follow me?”

I slid the gun back into the shoulder holster as I walked out the door, and just before the door closed behind me there came a few quiet squeaks from the window side of the room, and I swear to this day that they sounded awfully like a very high pitched “God bless you”

©2019 Stephen. J. Green.